New York City Praised For Response To New Ebola Patient | KERA News

New York City Praised For Response To New Ebola Patient

Oct 24, 2014
Originally published on October 24, 2014 5:59 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

One of the two nurses from Dallas who contracted Ebola from Thomas Eric Duncan was released from the hospital today. The second nurse was declared virus free. In New York City, the doctor who tested positive for Ebola yesterday is in stable condition. He remains in isolation at Bellevue Hospital after returning from treating Ebola patients in Guinea. Well, now that case is triggering a dramatic response from the governors of New York and New Jersey. Those states announced today that they will require mandatory quarantine of some people coming from Ebola-stricken countries, as NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Starting today, any travelers who had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa, including medical personnel, will be subjected to new quarantine measures in New York and New Jersey. The governors of the two states announced the new policy at a hastily arranged press conference this afternoon.

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GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: Quarantine means go home, stay home for 21 days - or wherever you are. That's quarantine.

ROSE: New York governor Andrew Cuomo says the current standard of voluntary quarantine for travelers who don't have any reason to think they were infected with Ebola simply isn't good enough.

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CUOMO: We want to be rigorous about it. It's not like we're in a part of the country where you slip out the back door and you go out for a walk in the woods, right? You slip out the back door here and you get on a bus, you get on a subway, you walk through a very crowded area.

ROSE: The new policy goes beyond the current guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC spokesman Thomas Skinner says the agency is reviewing its policies as well, but the agency is trying to protect Americans in ways that don't discourage health care workers from volunteering to fight the Ebola epidemic in Africa.

THOMAS SKINNER: We want to strike the right balance between doing what is right to further protect the public's health without impeding whatsoever our ability to respond to the outbreak in West Africa.

ROSE: The governors of New York and New Jersey are clearly trying to avoid another case like Craig Spencer. He was in Guinea caring for Ebola patients through Doctors Without Borders. He returned to New York City on October 17 and was monitoring himself for symptoms. Health officials say he didn't show any until yesterday when he reported a fever and was immediately transported to the hospital. But in the meantime, he left his apartment in Harlem several times, visiting a bowling alley and other public places. At a press conference earlier today, New York City health officials tried to reassure the public that Spencer posed no threat.

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MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO: Casual contact cannot lead to acquiring this disease. The only threat is if one has come in contact directly with the bodily fluids of someone who has this disease.

ROSE: That's New York mayor Bill de Blasio. City health commissioner Mary Bassett says Craig Spencer didn't show any symptoms of Ebola until Thursday when we was immediately transported to Bellevue Hospital.

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MARY BASSETT: This patient remained asymptomatic for most of his time since he's returned. He developed a fever only yesterday. He reported no watery diarrhea, no vomiting, no loss of control of bodily fluids.

ROSE: When he arrived at Bellevue, Spencer was immediately placed in a special isolation ward. New York officials cleaned Spencer's apartment today, and they placed his fiancee and two friends in quarantine. They released a full timeline of the places Spencer visited this week - a bowling alley in Brooklyn, a park in Manhattan and a restaurant in in Greenwich Village. Spencer rode the subway, specifically the one L and A trains but city officials insist the subway is perfectly safe. Today, those trains seemed as crowded as usual.

ED STROSSER: I definitely thought about it and probably won't be holding onto the bars.

ROSE: Ed Strosser was catching the one train in West Harlem, so was Eric Carr.

ERIC CARR: Yeah, I mean, because this is the way got to get around. You know, I'm not going to shut down my life based on fear of the unknown.

ROSE: With that, Carr got on the train and headed downtown. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.